After a rather disappointing start to the week, we actually have on the field activities in the near future. While it’s still pretty limited as far as what the players can and can’t do, it will be the first time rookies and veterans will be on the field together. This is as good as it’s going to get until camp opens up at St. John Fisher. With the first set of OTA’s about to kick off on Monday, the Buffalo Bills’ roster contains a number of veterans who have extra to play for this year.
K Dan Carpenter
The first Bill who I’ll examine is Kicking Jesus himself, Dan Carpenter. There’s little doubt that he had his worst statistical season last year since arriving from Miami in 2013. For the first time, you never felt comfortable with him when he lined up for a kick. While his field goal percentage wasn’t as high as his first two seasons (85.2% compared to 89.5% and 91.7%), Dan Carpenter really struggled to adapt to the new extra point rule. Only two other kickers (Jason Meyers and Matt Prater, with 7 each) missed more extra points then Carpenter’s six. Given his usual reliability and him restructuring his base contract this offseason, his spot on the roster is probably safe. However, a shaky preseason could change all of that. Rex stood with him last season as he struggled, but I can’t imagine he’ll want to go another whole season again with a kicker he can’t trust.
Next on the list is a guy I didn’t have even making the team in my 53-man roster projection; that man would be Marquise Goodwin. This one is tough for me because when he was drafted I couldn’t stop thinking of him running go routes and catching slants while generally just outrunning everybody on his way to the end zone. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case at all in his three years as he’s caught 20 passes with just 3 touchdowns (all of those in 2013, too).
He’s spent more time in the trainer’s room with various minor injuries than he has in the end zone. And while certainly very commendable, his dedication to being an Olympic athlete hasn’t helped at all in his development as a football player. The Bills are seemingly ready to move on from him as they drafted a bigger, less frail, and somehow even more explosive version of him in the sixth round this year in Kolby Listenbee. (Read Rob Quinn’s breakdown of him, complete with GIF’s, here.) Goodwin will have to prove he can contribute on special teams in a big way too if he wants to claim one of the final spots on the roster.
QB EJ Manuel
Bring up E.J. Manuel to any five random Bills fans and you might get five completely different opinions. His tenure in Buffalo has been, to put it kindly, a rocky one. He looks and carries himself like the face of the franchise. Almost to a fault, he says all the right things all the time. There have even been stretches when he’s played like the guy everybody expected him to be after he was taken in the first round three short years ago. However, those times have been too few and far between. His time with the Bills will more than likely come to an end after this season as his fifth year option was not picked up. He’s an easy guy to root for, but his good will with the fans wore out for good after last season’s debacle in London. That game as a whole is a perfect summation of the best and worst of what he brings to the table. As an unashamed E.J. apologist, that is where even I had to throw in the towel.
However, training camp and the preseason will be his time to prove to other coaches around the league that he deserves a fresh start in a new city. Maybe there is a coach out there who is confident enough in his abilities that he can mold an offense around E.J.’s skill set while masking his seemingly fatal flaws. If guys like Sam Bradford and Nick Foles can fall backwards into piles of guaranteed money, then so can he. Good luck Erik James, we’ll always have those hard counts to remember you by.
DT Kyle Williams
Disclaimer: There’s absolutely no way that Kyle Williams doesn’t make the team this year. His spot is locked up as long as he’s not a complete liability on the field. However with all that said, Kyle will be 33 when training camp opens and is coming off a season where he missed the final ten games due to a meniscus injury. That kind of injury is tough enough, never mind for a guy whose position requires moving 300-plus pound lineman for 65 snaps each game. He’s a guy who has been productive wherever he’s lined up in all different types of schemes, which should come in handy this year. Rex and company talk about being multiple and having “moveable chess pieces” and Kyle is the very definition of that. Nose tackle in a 3-4? Absolutely! Defensive end in a 4-3? No problem. Being such a well rounded athlete with a motor that doesn’t stop allows him to excel wherever he lines up and his presence alone will make the defense better. In a year where not making the playoffs could cost people their jobs; Kyle’s health will go a long way in determining the teams fate.